YouTube – Ryan Fireball
Wright radial + GE jet
1,350 h.p./1,600 lbs.
4 – .50 cal.
32 ft. 4 in.
The Ryan Fireball is the result of a 1942 U.S. Navy directive for a fighter aircraft with the acceleration of a propeller plane and the high speeds of a jet.
Engineers at Ryan accomplished this by using both means of propulsion in a single aircraft. The initial Ryan Fireball prototype required major modifications to the aircraft in order provide better low speed handling and correct structural weakness in the wings.
With those modifications, overall handling and performance of the Ryan Fireball exceeded expectations.
While U.S. Navy pilots didn’t care for the name of the aircraft, they appreciated its wide flight envelope. The Ryan Fireball could operate from sea level to over 40,000 feet with maximum power, acceleration, and maneuverability.
Although the U.S. Navy ordered 700 Ryan Fireball aircraft, the war ended before most could be delivered.
While never seeing combat, the Ryan Fireball did operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers beginning in March of 1945 before being retired in July of 1947. By then, jet engine technology had progressed to the point where it was seen that pure jet aircraft would be able to operate from aircraft carriers.
Although Ryan Fireball aircraft had been landing on aircraft carriers using both engines since their inital deployment, on November 6, 1945 a Ryan Fireball landing on an aircraft carrier using its jet engine only. That made it the world’s first jet aircraft ever to land aboard an aircraft carrier.